I’ve never written a race report on the same day I have completed the race before but it’s been a year of firsts so why not?
The Thames Meander, as I mentioned in my pre-race ramble yesterday, was supposed to be a training race and I will now reveal the goals I had going into it (before I moved the goal posts last night):
- A) Run a comfortable 3:30/3:35. Start slow, increase pace over last 10 or 12km. (At some point last night this became B and B became A…)
- B) Run a PR if feeling great at the half marathon point.
- C) Run 3:45 if things aren’t going so well. Save the legs for CTS Dorset Ultra on December 5th.
So, I set off travelling to race registration this morning feeling calm, confident and happy. I wanted a PR and I wanted to race and I didn’t feel phased by it. As this was a race along the Thames Path trail I figured it would be relatively flat and fast but that proved to be a mistake because it finished with 279m of elevation – about a 150m more than I was expecting!
My confidence was slightly shaken when I arrived at registration by the strong wind and cold, hard rain. This abated before the start but returned about 10 minutes in and didn’t stop until about the 2:25/2:30 mark. Stupidly I decided I would race in my club singlet without a baselayer and opted to put the baselayer in the pack for an emergency – for some reason I left my Salomon Bonatti waterproof, lightweight (totally awesome) jacket in my bag at bag check. It’s fair to say that I was cold and wet and feeling the chafing of my wet pack straps against wet skin very early on. It was uncomfortable, verging on painful. I managed to stop the pack moving around by transferring a water bottle into the back compartment from it’s chest holster which helped.
Aside from the chafe, the rain and the wind I was feeling supremely comfortable running and pace wise during the first half of the marathon. I was clocking 4:50pkm splits and was happily rolling along thinking about upping the pace later on down the line. And then disaster struck. Well, not disaster, that’s an overstatement. Anyway, my body became my enemy at around the 26km mark – my stomach suddenly decided it no longer wanted to take on gels or Shot Bloks. Oh dear, I only had gels or Shot Bloks to give my stomach. I browsed an aid station table and it made me feel nauseous just thinking about eating anything at all so I just figured I’d have to gut it out, get my head ready for the oncoming slow down and kiss goodbye to a PR!
And so it was. At 30km my wheels pretty much fell off and I entered a very, very dark mental cave that I struggled to get out of until the end of the race. It was terrible and I walked a lot more than I’m happy with. I cried. I tried to eat a gel but spat it out, I tried to chew a Shot Blok and had to spit that out too and for about 2km I couldn’t even face the prospect of sipping on water. Some point along the way between 34 and 35km I stopped completed, took off my pack and retrieved my baselayer because I had little choice at that point – I had started to shiver with the rain and wind because I was going so slowly! The Strava data for my last 11.7km tell the story in themselves:
Even though the race didn’t go to A or B plan I was pretty pleased to come in just on the cut-off of my C plan (TBC)! Something good did come out of the race thought because my Dad got to see me out on the course – granted, he got to see me run/walking at around the 38km mark but it was so good to see him coming out to support me and it gave me a temporary boost!
I’ll wrap it up here with a bullet list of things I learned. There’s no point racing unless you can take at least one lesson from it in my opinion:
- Hoka One One actually do take a lot of the pain from the legs. I’m sitting here writing and I’m pleasantly surprised that my legs feel absolutely fine.
- Gels and Shot Bloks just don’t work for me anymore – I struggled with them at South Downs Way 50, Ox Ultra and at this race. I don’t know why but I’m going to need to try new things so I think I’ll be trying Tailwind for CTS Dorset Ultra.
- Running with a race vest over a singlet with no baselayer is a terrible idea! My chest looks like it’s been burned by cigarettes and scratched by a cat thanks to chafe!
- If I’m going to run a marathon or ultra in the rain again it will be with my Salomon Bonatti waterproof stashed in my race vest at the very least.
- Running marathons requires more speedwork in the training plan. It hurts differently to ultra-hurt. I think it’s possible to run a 50k on a marathon training plan but it’s very hard to run a decent marathon on a 50 mile training plan.
- I need to put together a stronger mental strategy for those times the wheels fall off – be that temporarily or for the rest of a race. This year I struggled with mental demons at South Downs Way 50 and during this race which made both so much more difficult.
That’s it from me dear reader. I hope the trails, road and treadmills have treated you well this weekend!
Peace & Blessings